Oct 12, 2016

Come Together: How the Beatles Help Manage Your Assets

Ever wonder how the Beatles’ infamous feuding duo, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, bridged their creative views to write masterful melodies? The legacy is that although McCartney and Lennon initially composed together, they wrote most of their hit songs independently from one another – each contributing his own talented vision. Their musical collaboration combined mutual inspiration, mixed with a healthy dose of rivalry and varying perspectives.

It’s a well-known fact that opposites attract. And paired together, non-traditional relationships can offer a successful balance that often leads to exceptional results.

Similarly, IT Service Management and Software Asset Management each take a fundamentally different approach to software assets. They are separate disciplines with different stakeholders and objectives. Nevertheless, there is a significant overlap between the two worlds. In fact, ITSM and SAM need to collaborate with each other to achieve their goals.

As ITSM solutions such as ServiceNow gain popularity, it’s important to talk about how these two disciplines can not only relate – but benefit – each other. In this article, I will look at the often tumultuous relationship between ITSM and SAM.

Reading the lyrics — what’s the difference?

Before we delve deeper, it’s important to clarify and define these two terms:

Software Asset Management (SAM) manages software licenses. SAM applications consolidate purchases into a single inventory, and tell you how many licenses you own. They also collect, clean and normalize software installation data from discovery tools. A SAM platform like SmartTrack then uses its intelligent metric engines to tell you exactly how many licenses you need. By comparing the number of licenses owned vs. licenses needed, SAM ensures compliance and also prevents expensive penalty fees during software vendor audits. Some SAM tools can also simulate and optimize the way you use licenses, generating deeper cost savings.

IT Service Management (ITSM) manages IT services. ITSM suites like ServiceNow handle support tickets for incidents and service requests. Another function is to monitor and drive changes in your IT environment. For that purpose, ITSM platforms have a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) built-in. The CMDB stores knowledge about the entire IT infrastructure, needed when change requests are processed. A change may request additional hardware for your IT environment, or for software to be installed to an existing asset. In both cases the ITSM application needs to understand the properties and relationships of the existing IT, which the CMDB provides.

As you can see, ITSM and SAM have quite different goals and priorities. SAM is all about reducing costs by keeping an eye on compliance balance, license simulation and optimization. ITSM is primarily focused on keeping the business operational by managing the company's IT infrastructure.

When frenemies collide

Although these two disciplines have different targeted intentions, they are not mutually exclusive. ITSM and SAM are often deeply connected through interdisciplinary processes, involve many of the same stakeholders, require similar tool support, and share common data needs.

With such a significant overlap you may ask: Why not consolidate both ITSM and SAM into a single technology? A merger would simplify the end user experience. Users would face only one front end, instead of having two separate points of contact. And it would minimize integration efforts — often a headache when there are multiple technologies — by having all data under the same roof.

The idea of combining efforts is so attractive that some ITSM vendors actually try to incorporate SAM functionality into their products.

Specialize & collaborate

Despite the fairytale lure of a one-size-fits-all tool, I’m convinced that having dedicated technologies for both ITSM and SAM is far more beneficial. At Aspera, we are strong proponents of the Unix philosophy. Attributed to Ken Thompson, well-known computer pioneer and inventor of the Unix operating system, it boils down to three basic principles:

  1. Write programs that do one thing and do it well.
  2. Write programs to work together.
  3. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.

While some ITSM solutions may offer a limited extent of SAM functionality, their core focus remains on the operational piece. For example, accurate compliance reports require downgrade rights, secondary use rights, maintenance terms, and the latest licensing rules. These are data elements that most ITSM catalogs simply don't have. In addition, simulation or optimization of licensing scenarios requires further expertise and dedicated tool support.

Building a bridge (in music and beyond)

When responsibilities are broken up into separate technologies, the need for integration arises. Connections have to be established, ensuring that the different technologies can exchange all the necessary information to work together.

In the Unix world, this is addressed by allowing every program to read from and write to text streams (the "pipes"). In the ITSM and SAM relationship, this is addressed by specialized system connectors that leverage available APIs. A SAM platform like SmartTrack comes with over 40 different system connectors out-of-the-box. In addition, it has all the built-in tools needed to create your own connectors, resulting in a SAM platform that easily integrates with any existing systems already in place.

As your software budget continues to rise, proper integration between ITSM and SAM must occur to avoid reckless spending. A study by IDG Research found that the average annual cost of software licenses and maintenance is nearly $92 million.

Below is an illustration of the cost savings achieved through SAM-ITSM integration, based on this average annual spend of $92 million. The implementation of a dedicated SAM solution, along with an ITSM process, provides substantial positive impact over time. In this example, license re-harvesting through “suggested uninstall lists” generated by a SAM platform results in 10% savings. Automated license stock checks & SAM’s contract management tied into the ITSM software request process can prevent wasteful spending of up to 6%. An additional 15% saving can be achieved through advanced optimization analysis performed by SAM.

My final riff: Come together, right now

The Beatles were arguably one of the most influential bands in music history. And although both Lennon and McCartney were tremendous musicians, neither one could have built the band to stardom on his own.

At the most basic sense, it’s difficult for a single person — or entity — to do it all. This is why the Unix philosophy (master one skill & collaborate) is so important.

Despite their inherent difference, there is value in both your ITSM and SAM solutions. While no single platform can meet every need, it’s key to ensure that solutions play well together, and respect each other’s talents.

Topics: SmartTrack, License Optimization, SAM Insights

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